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MPs advise charities on high-impact, cost-effective lobbying

  • Build rapport with priority MPs and mobilise public to lobby them locally, parliamentarians tell cash-conscious charities

  • “Avoid the scattergun; think targeted, personal and local,” think tank counsels

 Over half (55%) of MPs say “building a relationship with 10 key MPs” is the most effective way to spend a limited lobbying budget, with just 3% and 2%, respectively, advising using constrained resources to hire a public affairs agency or run a party conference fringe event - according to figures out today.

Additionally, 45% of MPs advise “encouraging the public to lobby their MP”; and over a third (36%) urge “building a relationship with a relevant Select Committee and/or All-Party Parliamentary Groups. The recommendations broadly hold sway across all main political parties although, interestingly, Conservative MPs were least likely (31% - 59 Lib Dem, 51% Labour) to bid charities spend money on encouraging public to lobby their local MPs; and Lib Dem MPs are most likely (26% - 19% Labour, 14% Conservative) to value a constituency event.

Leading not for profit sector think tank and research consultancy nfpSynergy’s Charity Parliamentary Monitor (Nov 2008) surveyed a representative sample of 160 MPs, asking them: “Imagine that you work for a charity and have a few thousand pounds to spend on lobbying MPs, which of the following [from a wide-ranging prompted list] would you spend it on?”

nfpSynergy researcher, Gemma Tracey, says:

“Straight from the horse’s mouth! MPs are telling voluntary organisations to nurture and harness relationships with a small number of identified priority parliamentarians; and to woo them with targeted and personal methods – including at a constituency level, via the general public. Conversely, relatively few MPs counsel burning valuable and often scarce resources on wider bulletins, events, receptions, stands or meetings – or on hiring a public affairs agency. Cost-effective charities should therefore always endeavour to avoid unselective scattergun tactics and aim to be more targeted, personal and local.”


In March 2008, nfpSynergy’s Charity Parliamentary Monitor revealed MPs’ top campaigning tips on how charities can most impress

The following tips summarised MPs’ own comments (March 2008) on how charities can best influence them, not least when compared with lobbying activity conducted by companies…

  1. Trust you start from a good position since MPs are sympathetic to your cause – They are more open to meeting charities than companies, hearing about your campaigns and supporting your work.
  2. Highlight your constituency work and local focus – A campaign with a constituency angle is more likely to win an MP’s ear and support.
  3. Develop strong relationships with key MPs – MPs say face-to-face meetings, regular briefings and follow-ups are effective ways of gaining their attention; and that charities trump companies in this area. 
  4. Offer the right kind of information in the right kind of forum – MPs value the focused research briefings many charities provide; and appreciate meetings with media opportunities. 
  5. Don’t bore – MPs dislike generic campaigning; large, unfocused parliamentary receptions; mass postcard mailings; and a general lack of understanding of MPs and their work. 
  6. Don’t waste resources – Avoid mass mailings and parliamentary receptions that lack a specific campaign objective, plus any other ineffective campaigning tactics that could be wasting donors’ money.
  7. Learn from companies (where possible) – Companies are often more selective; and better at targeting specific relevant MPs, than charities.



MEDIA COMMENT: To interview nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton about these findings, please contact him direct on 07976 329 212 or joe.saxton@nfpsynergy.net; or, alternatively, contact Adrian Gillan (0774 086 7215; E: adrian@gillanmedia.com) for further assistance.

Note to editors:

nfpSynergy (www.nfpsynergy.net) is the UK’s only research consultancy dedicated to the charity sector and not-for-profit issues. It provides ideas, insights and information to help voluntary and community organisations thrive in an ever-changing world. Regularly harvesting the social and charity-related views of public and parliament, media and business - not to mention not for profit organisations themselves - nfpSynergy has a vast and ever-growing knowledge pool from which to extract and deliver insights.



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Charity Parliamentary Monitor November 2008

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